I am pleased to reveal the cover for Peril by Ponytail due out in October from Five Star. This title will be #12 in my Bad Hair Day Mysteries.
Marla and Dalton’s honeymoon at an Arizona dude ranch veers from dangerous to downright deadly faster than a horse headed to the corral. With her husband’s uncle—the resort’s owner—on the suspect list for murder, Marla races to prove his innocence. She hopes her blind trust isn’t misplaced, especially when she learns their relative has secrets he’d rather keep buried.
Shipping date: September 16, 2015; On-sale date: October 7, 2015
ISBN: 9781432830984, $25.95, Five Star
“Peril by Ponytail ropes in the reader in Nancy J. Cohen’s captivating new tale, which deftly braids together deadly secrets under the sand, long hidden resentments, and romance on the range.” —Ellen Byerrum, Author of the Crime of Fashion Mysteries
I’ll be making more announcements as time goes on, but if you’d like to be considered for a review copy, please notify me along with the sites where you post (your actual page, not just “I post on Goodreads).
We capped our trip to Arizona with a ninety-minute narrated boat tour via the Desert Belle across Saguaro Lake. This is part of a series of lakes linked together by dams. We ate lunch in the restaurant by the dock, overlooking the water and various cacti off to our side.
The boat has two decks. We chose to sit in the air-conditioning on the lower level by the snack bar, although you could open the windows wide for fresh air and to take photos. An awesome view unfolded as we cruised between canyon walls, spotted caves dotting the cliffs, and saw marsh grasses waving in the current. It was a lovely tour and a fitting finale to our wonderful journey. Here are some final views, now a fond memory. Below is a farewell photo from our last lunch in Fountain Hills.
How does this relate to my story? I doubt that my sleuths, Marla and Dalton, will have to time to cruise around a lake in Peril by Ponytail when they’re busy solving murders. However, I have enough material for more than one book, so you just might see these scenes in another Drift Lords tale. I can just see one my hunky heroes having to steal a boat, find a hidden cave entrance, and search inside for another clue to whatever mythical quest has drawn him there. When you’re a writer, all material becomes fodder for a story.
A visit to Tombstone, AZ isn’t complete without a stop at the Bird Cage Theater, which is supposed to be haunted. It’s fascinating to explore the varied sections of this old establishment and view the artifacts stored there.
Opened in 1881, this one-and-a-half story structure held a saloon, theater, and balcony seating. It closed due to diminishing business in 1889. Subsequent owners renovated and reopened the theater for various purposes. Ghost stories kept guests coming back.
One of the supposed ghostly residents was a jealous woman who lived next store and frequented the theater. She died by overdosing on rat poison. Another tale involved two ladies who liked the same man. One woman stabbed the other while the man watched from his poker game. Some guests have reported seeing a stage hand walking across the stage. Others report seeing a woman’s apparition on the catwalk, smells of perfume or cigars, objects moving on their own, and other phenomenon.
Since the fictional ghost town in Peril by Ponytail, my WIP, has an old theater like this, you can guess what I used as a model. Here’s brief excerpt where Dalton’s cousin is giving him and Marla a tour of his renovation project:
“The only thing we have to fear here is other people.” Dalton’s statement put them firmly back on the ground. “So you’re saying what the man saw on the hill might have been a real person, and he went to investigate, never to return?”
“That’s not what my workforce believes. They think he saw La Catrina summoning him to glory. I took a look around there myself and came up empty. These stories about spooks are hogwash, if you ask me.”
Marla wasn’t so sure. She glanced up as a shadow flickered in her peripheral vision. Was someone up there in the rafters?
A rattling noise sounded right before a chandelier came crashing down from above.
So what do you think? Did a ghost loosen that heavy chandelier or a human culprit?
We couldn’t resist touring the Epitaph Museum that housed the old printing press where they put out an early newspaper. How far we’ve come from this cavernous hall to the newsrooms of today.
Tombstone is a great place to visit. It’ll make you appreciate our country’s history, the early pioneering days, and how rough life must have been for the settlers. You can pay homage to them at Boothill Graveyard on your way out of town. Note the Jewish monument below.
If you’re a history buff or a fan of historical recreations, you’ll want to visit Tombstone, Arizona. This site of the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral has been remade into a tourist town with quaint shops and restaurants, museums, and a reenactment of the gun battle that resonated throughout history.
We stayed at the Landmark Lookout Lodge, an easy ten minute drive from the heart of town. The oldest house dates back to 1879. The town started when a cavalry scout discovered silver. When he proposed exploring the hills, he was told, “The only thing you’ll find out there is your tombstone.” Hence the town name.
The Good Enough Mine is open today but we didn’t have time to go. This one has a vertical shaft and is located off Toughnut Street, so-called because if you could walk outside without being shot or stabbed, you were a tough nut. The mine went down 600 feet where it hit the aquifer, so water had to be pumped out. It closed operations when silver prices dropped.
Along this street worked the attorneys who served the courthouse, now a museum. There’s still a gallows in the backyard where seven men were hanged. The white fenced house a little further down used to be a pleasure palace, if you know what I mean.
We took a trolley tour, and our friendly guide wearing a brown cowboy hat explained the sights along the way. There was Doc Goodfellow’s house. He signed an outlaw’s death certificate and lived on Toughnut Street. The sheriff’s house was here, too. A couple of thousand Chinese used to live in Tombstone. They worked as merchants and miners. Their women ran prostitution and opium rings. The guide pointed out many of the historic buildings, telling stories that went along with them.
Back on the main street, we shopped in the interesting gift shops, ate in the saloons, attended a historical diorama in a little theater, and bought tickets for the infamous gunfight reinactment. If I got the info correct, 30 shots were fired that day and 3 men were killed. Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday are the featured heros. Here is my first attempt at a video.
How does this relate to the story I’m writing? In Peril by Ponytail, Marla and Dalton visit a dude ranch run by his cousin, Wayne. Wayne’s father is renovating a nearby ghost town. Guess what I used as a model? My fictional town is loosely based on a combination of Tombstone and Jerome (Oct. 30 post).
Coming next: Tombstone, Part 2—The haunted Bird Cage Theater and Boothill Cemetery.
Entering a copper mine deep inside a mountain was one of the more awesome things we did on our trip to Arizona. Gathering inside the main building at the Bisbee Copper Queen Mine, we explored the rocks for sale inside the gift shop until our group was called.
We were each given a brass tag with a number, like a real miner. These would survive in case of an explosion or cave-in to identify the bodies. This was called “brassing in” when miners reported for duty. At the end of his shift, the miner would turn his tag back in to the timekeeper. Here’s a replica from the Bisbee historical museum of the timekeeper’s station.
Then we each went along an assembly line to get outfitted. With assistance from a seasoned miner, we donned yellow slickers, lights around our necks, belts and helmets. From here, we boarded a tram for our ride into the mountain. We sat astride like on a horse. A bell clanged, and the tram jerked forward. A gap yawned in front of us as we moved ahead. Wheels creaked as we entered a dark tunnel with chiseled rock walls.
We glimpsed other passages leading off into pitch blackness as we rattled deeper into the interior. Rocks glistened in places from crystals. Dust-covered ore carts and discarded tools lay about. The only way we could see in the dark was with our lights. Wood supports shored up the walls at intervals. Loose rock was “barred” or secured behind metal bars.
This mine, unlike others, was cool with a temperature in the fifties. That’s because air flows in from outside. We rode horizontally into the mountain. Other mines go straight down. Those mines are hotter and need air pumped in. This one evolved from a natural hole and was discovered by army scouts in 1877. Because methane gas wasn’t a danger here, miners could smoke in these tunnels. However, the men had to hand roll their cigarettes so they would go out if dropped.
Riding on the tram, I felt someone tap my head. I twisted around. My husband hadn’t done it. Who, then? A ghost? Mines were rife with accidents: explosions, cave-ins, tumbles down the shaft, falling rock. Who knew how many workers had died there? Unexpectedly, lots of orbs showed on some of my photos. Spiritual entities or dust motes? More scenes from the museum.
Eventually we came to a stop and got off at a big dug-out chamber where our guide explained about mining methods. Miners worked by candlelight and swung a pickax to break off rock from the walls. If the rock was too hard, they drilled holes in the rock using a steel drill bit and a sledgehammer. They’d put in a stick of dynamite and light the fuse. This broke up the rock and expanded the tunnel. They’d transport the ore to chutes. It went down into ore carts which were pulled by mules. The mules lived in the mines. When their time was up, they were taken to the surface with blinders on and their vision gradually restored so they didn’t go blind from the brightness.
We saw the metal toilets where early miners did their business as they toiled for 12 hour shifts underground. Those seats must have been chilly!
If a miner needed to reach the surface, he’d tug a rope pull by a cage. The cage operator would send down the open wood platform. We saw the boss’s tricycle (or similar conveyance) by which he checked on his men twice a day.
They pumped in air and water. The water cut down on dust, which could damage the lungs. The compressed air was used in machinery-operated drills once they became available. Today, the mines are tested for radon gas. Other types of mines have to be tested for air and methane gas. You can light a candle to see if there’s air flow. Parakeets were used to detect dangerous gases. Miners would equip themselves with a helmet, candles and matches, lunch pail, and sometimes a survival kit or gas mask.
Copper doesn’t deposit in veins like gold. It’s mixed in the ore, so processing techniques are needed to separate it from other substances. It would have been sent to a stamp mill for crushing and refining. Side products could be gold, silver, zinc, lead, and other minerals.
I learned a lot more when we went to the history museum in Bisbee, after a pleasant lunch in town. Bisbee is built among the hills and has some interesting shops and restaurants as well as a historic hotel.
I won’t bore you with further details about mining, but they were fascinating. The method used today is called the open pit technique. You can see the results at the Lavender Pit. It’s not a pretty sight.
Disclaimer: Any inaccuracies are due to my note taking and not the information presented.
How does this relate to my story? In Peril by Ponytail, Marla and Dalton are staying at an Arizona dude ranch owned by his uncle. Raymond is also renovating a ghost town that used to be a former copper mining camp. Marla’s exploration of a hillside where a worker vanished leads to an astounding discovery. Consider the information above and use your imagination to determine where Marla and Dalton find themselves next.
November Booklover’s Bench Contest Nov. 4 – Nov. 18 Enter to win a $25 Amazon or BN gift card or one of six runner-up ebook prizes, including a pdf copy of Warrior Rogue. http://bookloversbench.com/contest/
Normally you’d associate a dude ranch with horses, right? But do you also add in opportunities to partake in educational lectures, spa treatments, fishing and gourmet food? At Tanque Verde Dude Ranch outside of Tucson, Arizona, you have the chance for these activities and more.
I was pleasantly surprised as we drove up to the main lobby to note the green landscaping amid curving paths. Single-story pink adobe buildings are scattered throughout the property, each housing either guest quarters or public gathering places. It was pleasant strolling around the grounds and a hike in itself climbing the road to the haciendas at the top.
The more expensive accommodations overlook Saguaro National Forest and the mountains beyond. We stayed in a casita, a large rustic bedroom suite with a fireplace, dining alcove, seating arrangement, and modern bathroom facilities. Notably lacking was a television. The theory is you’re so tired out after being active all day that you’ll retire early.
Daytime activities range from riding horses to nature hikes to lounging by the pool, playing a round of tennis, or getting a massage. You can visit the nature center and speak to a naturalist about wildlife in the area or track down a wrangler for a horseback riding lesson.
Evenings might find you at an outdoor barbecue, attending a lecture, or relaxing on your patio with a good book. Maybe they’ll add a ghost tour in the future if the resort is found to have some associated ghost stories. Cooking demos might be another added attraction as the food was excellent. The dining hall offers a buffet for breakfast and lunch and a sit-down menu for dinner. Stop by the Dog House Saloon for a drink later in the evening.
In the same building as the dining room is a card room, cozy sitting room with leather couches and a TV, and a space for evening lectures. Nearby is a gift shop with souvenir items.
I didn’t get a chance to participate in any of the activities except for the evening historical talk because I was busy all afternoon interviewing staff members for my next mystery. I came prepared with a list of specific questions. Although I am not a horse person, staying at a dude ranch could grow on me. Certainly I like the feeling of being pampered, which you get with the inclusive meals and the spa facilities.
Taking walks, reading, and appreciating nature is a vacation in itself. I enjoyed strolling the paths and reading the labels on the desert plants and trees.
If you want to get away from it all and be close to nature, a dude ranch vacation may suit your needs.
How does this location relate to my next story? In Peril by Ponytail, Marla and Dalton accept an offer by his cousin to stay on a dude ranch for their delayed honeymoon. Naturally, where they go, mischief and mayhem follows. Does Marla learn to like horses? Stay tuned to find out.
Thanks to the staff at Tanque Verde Dude Ranch for graciously answering my questions. If you want more information about this popular destination, Click Here.
One night in Scottsdale, I was invited to do a booksigning and discussed at The Poisoned Pen Mystery Bookstore. After a quick gourmet dinner nearby at Virtu, I entered the inviting store and introduced myself to the staff. Lee, Patrick, and David were all very helpful. They were enthusiastic about my books and set up a ring of chairs for guests.
The seats quickly filled and a lively discussion ensued. I talked about my Bad Hair Day mysteries and related how I was researching my next mystery while in Arizona. I’ve already written the synopsis for Peril by Ponytail and determined my cast of suspects. But I can’t begin writing without seeing the setting details in person. My experiences already caused me to make plot changes and altered my impression of the desert.
A good time was had by all. Many thanks to the Poisoned Pen. Hope to see you guys again soon! If you’re in the Scottsdale area, be sure to stop in. http://www.poisonedpen.com
As we approached Sedona, I noticed a change in the mountains. Layers of red rock made distinctive patterns along the cliff sides. The upper layers appeared to be tan, while red lay on the lower layers in a repetitive pattern. I stared in awe at these towering red rock formations. Taller trees than we’d seen previously on our trip and evergreens also came into view.
We stopped by The Well Red Coyote so I could say hello to the bookstore owners. Then we headed into town to find a parking space. On foot, we bypassed the interesting shops on the main street to buy tickets for a Pink Jeep tour. It was cool and breezy so I bought a scarf in their gift shop. Then we boarded the open-air jeep for our adventure. We sat on benches facing each other on gray upholstery with pink trim and fastened our seatbelts.
Don, our guide, told us how the ancestral mountains formed and eroded. Dormant volcanoes dated back to ten million years ago. During a seismic event, the side of the mountains cracked, and they dropped three thousand feet. Sand deposited and flattened into horizontal strata. Rusty water with iron oxide filled in the cracks and drained through the larger, round grains to settle in the more tightly packed, smaller-grained lower layers. The sandstone is either red or yellow. The difference is from the size and shape of the grains. The yellow is the larger, round grains and so is on top. The red is smaller and more tightly packed and lies on the lower layers where the rusty water came to rest. This explains the differentiation in colors, which is superficial. Grasses grew, and then cattle and sheep arrived. Overgrazing led to the current type of vegetation.
We turned off from town at Dry Creek Road while Don named some of the trees: Juniper, silvery Arizona Cypress, green Pinyon Pine, Shrub Oak with serrated leaves, and more. Then Don pointed out the three fingers known as Chimney Rock.
We drove up Thunder Mountain next (any errors are my note taking). It was very windy and cool so I was glad for the hoodie and scarf that I wore. We passed a dry creek bed, noting more angular mountains mixed with mesas in the distance. Next came our off-road adventure. We bounced over the red rocks and up and down slopes, the jeep tossing us from side to side as we gripped handlebars on the roof. Good thing we hadn’t eaten lunch yet!
We got out at one site and climbed to the top of a ridge with an expansive view. Don identified a yellow flowered snakeweed (good for building fires), prickly pear cactus, white daisies, indigo, agave and sage plants. Rattlesnakes, spiders, and mountain lions are some of the critters around, but not to worry. We didn’t spot anything other than fellow humans.
After getting our fill of nature, we left the jeep tour and drove to Shugrues Hillside Grill for lunch. We sat indoors rather than on the terrace with the wind. Staring out at the lovely mountain view, we dined on butternut squash ravioli with Portobello mushrooms.
Next we drove up Chapel Hill to the magnificent Chapel of the Holy Cross. This amazing structure is set on two red rock pillars amid towering rock cliffs. This site is so awesome that it inspires religion. Really, how could this spectacular setting be a random act of evolution? No wonder this region is known for its positive, uplifting spiritual flow. There’s no metaphysics needed, just awe and appreciation. The church is free to visitors. Its huge window faces the sky and the mountain ranges and valleys beyond. It’s quiet inside, with double rows of pews and candles lit on either side before the altar.
By the time we descended from Chapel Hill, it was getting late and the weather had gotten cloudier. Warning signs on the road for Blowing Dust—Low Visibility made us hasten to leave town. Unfortunately, this meant we didn’t have time for shopping. We stopped instead at a couple of New Age stores selling books, crystals, and jewelry so I could buy some research books on the vortexes before heading for the hills and home.
How does this relate to my stories? While the ghosts in previous posts may appear in my next Bad Hair Day mystery, the spiritual energy vortexes at Sedona fit in perfectly with my paranormal Drift Lords series. So look for Arizona to be the featured setting in Bad Hair Day #12 and in Drift Lords #5.
Have you ever been to a site you consider a world wonder?
Coming Next: The Poisoned Pen Bookstore
Tomorrow I am blogging at The Kill Zone on Getting Back on Track. Please visit.
Formerly a mining camp, Jerome, Arizona once boasted 15,000 inhabitants and now has a population of around 480. A popular ghost town for visitors, it’s a fun place to visit. Founded in 1876, the town rests in a picturesque setting with buildings scattered across multiple levels on the mountainside. The mines used to produce three million pounds of copper per month. Eighty-eight miles of tunnels still exist beneath the town. The mines closed in 1953. Now considered a National Historic Landmark, Jerome’s historical buildings are converted into shops, art galleries, museums, and eateries. Put on your walking shoes if you plan a visit. The steps are steep between levels.
The five-story Spanish Mission-style Jerome Grand Hotel, formerly a hospital for the copper miners, was built in 1926 as the United Verde Hospital. Made of solid concrete to withstand underground blasting, this structure towers over the entire town at the top of Cleopatra Hill. You have to drive along a twisty incline to get there, and in one place, it fits only one car at a time. When mining diminished, the hospital closed in 1950. It reopened, newly refurbished as a hotel, in 1996.
The hotel was hot, despite it being October. Although there are radiators in each room, there is no central air-conditioning. Keep this in mind if you book a reservation. Our room, number 26, was one of the few that had a noisy wall A/C unit. The rooms are tastefully decorated with wood furnishings. There’s a tiny old-fashioned TV in the room and framed pictures of copper sculptures. Bathroom amenities are generous, and there’s a modern shower. Coffee and Danish are served mornings in the lobby beginning at 7 AM. The rooms don’t have any coffeemakers.
We took a mid-day break for lunch at the Asylum Restaurant, the hotel’s appropriately named café. The restaurant is only open for lunch and dinner until nine o’clock in the evening. We appreciated their Halloween decorations and the view as we sat on a covered outdoor patio.
Afterward, we explored the town and its interesting buildings like an old brothel, saloon, hotels, and theatre. Then we checked in for our Ghost Tour (see prior post) in the modern lobby below.
For dinner we ate again at the Asylum, glad to relax after roaming the hotel looking for ghosts with our EMF meters. The restaurant had red brocade clothes over tables covered with changeable white papers and a very pleasant ambience. We had shrimp on a skewer and the house salad. From here, we retired for the evening. Despite my ghost hunting enthusiasm, I sincerely hoped an apparition wouldn’t visit me in the night. Guest have written their paranormal experiences at the hotel into a journal in the lobby. You’ll get chills up your spine reading the entries. As for those orbs that appeared in my photos, decide for yourself if they have ghostly origins or not.
Have you ever hunted ghosts at a haunted site? We had the chance to go on our own ghost tour at the Jerome Grand Hotel in Jerome, Arizona. This five-story concrete structure used to be a hospital for miners populating the area in the early 1920’s. Our ghost hunt ($20 per person) began in the boiler room of the hotel with an orientation talk. The original 1926 steam boiler still provides heat for the hotel. Our guide told us ghost tales and the hotel history (see post on Jerome coming next). Here’s the boiler room. Can you spot the orbs? You might have to enlarge the photos.
One ghost was a fellow who used to hang out at the bar and who disappeared for three days. He was found by the police chief hanging in his bathroom down a short corridor from the boiler room.
Another ghost was a man who was found with his head smashed under the elevator that had stopped working. The coroner said the back of his head should have been bashed in, but the front had contusions. Had he been hit with blunt force and his body laid out there so it would appear to be an accident?
Ghost number three was a 24-year-old female schizophrenia patient, who’d been drugged and restrained at night. On her last night there, she got loose and jump from the balcony to her death.
And finally, the fourth ghost could be the man who shot himself in his room.
Then we were given our instruments which included a Digital Camera, an IR Thermometer, and an EMF Meter that blinked red near electric sources.
The ground floor has the lobby and boiler room, plus a gift shop. The lobby used to be an emergency entrance for ambulance patients. The men’s wards were opposite the women’s and children’s wards on floors two and up. Room 26 (our room) used to be the x-ray department. This was spooky in itself, since my husband is a retired radiologist. Room 27 was the nurse’s station.
Floors one through four contain the hotel rooms and former patient wards, the former operating room, cafeteria, x-ray department, and solarium. The old-fashioned Otis elevator is enough to spark your imagination. You have to close a grate and then the outer door. A key is needed to reach the higher levels. Below is the incinerator where body parts were disposed along with other bio-hazardous materials after surgery.
The third floor was the psychiatric ward. The fourth floor had been an enclosed rooftop and was converted to rooms for wealthier private patients. (If I get any of this wrong, it’s due to my note taking and not to the lecture). The cafeteria was off one end of a floor. The operating room was at another end at a different level. There was also a solarium.
All are being converted into guest rooms. We walked through these sites on the ghost hunt tour, including the new areas under construction.
As we went around, we didn’t find any cold spots. I took a lot of my own pictures, hoping something would show up later when I put them online. We were promised a disk of everyone’s photos from the hotel cameras, but so far, this item has not arrived. However, a lot of orbs showed up on my photos as you’ll see. If you want more information on this phenomenon, check out these resources: